As she sentenced Larry Nassar up to 175 years in prison for sexual assault, Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina ripped into the former USA Gymnastics doctor.
“I just signed your death warrant,” Aquilina said Wednesday during an impassioned half-hour announcement of her decision.
During her powerful statement, Aquilina stopped to directly address Nassar about his guilt after reading from a letter he had written in court defending himself.
The judge strongly disagreed, saying: “It was not treatment. It was not treatment what you did. It was not medical.”
Here are Judge Aquilina’s full remarks:
Sir, I hope that – sir. I hope you are shaken to your core. Your victims are clearly shaken to their core. And I know there are still some who ask are you broken because you got caught. First let me address counsel. I agree with your words in regard to no one should blame defense counsel and vigilante crimes are not tolerated. So, I hope that no one will do anything untoward against counsel, their children, their families, their firms, their cars, whatever. Crime plus crime solves absolutely nothing. Please respect their job. (unintelligible) The Sixth Amendment does guarantee each defendant the right to counsel. It doesn’t matter what the defendant has done. They have the right to counsel.
I also want to say that being said, we also have the First Amendment. So, you are all free to have your own opinion. It is always a balancing act between the First Amendment, the Sixth Amendment. All of the due process and all the other amendments to the constitution,they are all valuable in their own way. That’s why we have an organized and just society. That’s why we are here today. Because this defendant has been brought to justice. Do not make it worse, please. Before I get to sentencing, I want to talk about a couple of things and first, I have said what I need to say to the victims. I have a little more to say. You are no longer victims, you are survivors. You’re very strong and I have addressed you individually.
‘Become part of the army’
Before I say anything further, I don’t know if you all know this and I know that the world is watching, I know this because I am on the bench every day and this isn’t the only heinous crime that appears in this court. The national crime victimization survey that’s done by the (US) Justice Department annually reports that 310 out of every 1,000 assaults are reported to the police, which means that two out of three go unreported. To the voices of everyone that report, keep your voice up. Rachael’s voice hopefully will raise these numbers of reports in all your voices. But that statistic does not include children 12 and under. One in 10 children will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday. One in seven girls and one in 25 boys by their 18th birthday. That means that in the United States, I am not talking about any other country, but in the United States, 400,000 babies born in the US will become victims of child sexual abuse. It stops now. Speak out like these survivors, become part of the army.
I do one case at a time. And I really so very much appreciate all of your thank yous. I read some of the Twitters and Facebooks and all that’s going on the media. I am not special, I am doing my job. If you come into my courtroom, any Wednesday and watch sentencing, I give everybody a voice. I give defendants a voice, their families when they’re here. I give the victims a voice. I try to treat everybody like family because that’s the justice system that I was raised to believe in.
Judge gets personal
I came to this country stateless, unnaturalized. My father’s Maltese, my mother’s German. And I was raised on old country values. And my grandmother always told me and my parents always told me, my grandfather too, that America is the greatest country. I believe that. That’s why I served in the military. That’s why I have always done community service. I am not really well-liked because I speak out. I don’t have many friends because I speak out. If you ask me a question, you better be ready for the answer. I speak out because I want change. Because I don’t believe in hiding the truth. I am not saying I am always right. But I try.
Sentence fits all crimes, judge says
I also don’t believe that one size fits all when it comes to sentencing, another reason I was (unintelligible). I know that there are some judges for every crime they give the same punishment. I don’t think that’s justice. I believe in individualized sentencing. I follow the Constitution and I believe our system works.
I also believe these survivors. Now there is case law about how I can consider what I can consider. And first and foremost, my sentence reflects the seven (victims) in regards to who the defendant pled to. What the remainder of you, the 161 others add to the credibility of those seven. So technically, I am considering everything. Everyone. Because your crime, all of your crimes, the depth of them have cut into the core of this community and many communities and all of the families and of all of the people that we don’t even know.
And sir, the media has asked me to release your letter, I am not going to do that. Counsel may object, the media may object, but there is some information in here that troubles me in regards to the victims. I don’t want them to be revictimized by the words that you have in here. But I do want to read some more of your letter. And the reason I want to do that is because I considered it as an extension of your apology and whether I believe it or not. So I want you to hear your words.
I have already read some and I am not reading every line. Let me begin. “The federal judge went ballistic at sentencing since I pled guilty to the state case and spent 10% on the federal case and 90% on the state cases and civil suits. She gave me 60 years instead of five to 20 years, in parentheses, three consecutive 20 years sentencing. I have pleaded guilty to possession of porn from 9/2004 to 12/2004. Four months. The prosecutor even admitted that I never belonged to any porn site or chat room, was not on the dark web. And also, they could not prove that I viewed it. It was all deleted, of course. I shared my electronics and I could not prove that. So for four months of porn possession from 2004, I was sentenced to 60 years, not proper, appropriate there. Going down a few lines, what I did in the state cases was medical, not sexual. But, because of a porn, I lost all support and thus another reason for this state’s guilty plea.”
Let me move down further. “So I tried to avoid a trial to save the stress to this community and my family and victims, yet, look what is happening. It is wrong.”
Let me move down further. “I was a good doctor because my treatments worked and those patients that are now speaking out were the same ones that praised and came back over and over and referred family and friends to see me. The media convinced them that everything I did was wrong and bad. They feel I broke their trust. Hell hath not fury like a woman scorned. It is just a complete nightmare. The stories that are being fabricated to sensationalize this than the AG would only accept my plea if I said what I did was not medical and was for my own pleasure. They forced me to say that or they were going to trial and not accepting the plea. I wanted to plea no contest, but the AG refused that. I was so manipulated by the AG and now Aquilina. And all I wanted was to minimize the stress like I wrote earlier.”
Going down a little bit further. “In addition, with the federal case, my medical treatments with the Olympics/national team gymnastics were discussed as part of the fleet. The FBI investigated them in 2015 and found nothing substantial because it was medical. Now, they are seeking the media attention and financial reward.”
The judge addresses the former doctor
Would you like to withdraw your plea?
Larry Nassar: No your honor.
Judge Aquilina: Because you are guilty, aren’t you? Are you guilty, sir?
Nassar: I said my plea exactly.
‘You have not yet owned what you did’
Judge Aquilina: The new sign language has become treatment. These quotes, these air quotes, I will never see it again without thinking of you and your despicable acts. I don’t care how they are used, it was not treatment. It was not treatment what you did. It was not medical. There is no medical evidence that was ever brought. When this case first came to me and I have told you this and I apologize to the Olympians and athletes but I have five children and two dogs, my parents live with me, I work four jobs, I don’t have much time for television, I don’t watch sports, although last year I was a soccer coach much to the laughter of my family. I didn’t know anything about you, your name or anything that was going on. And so when I kept saying we are going to trial, here is the date.
Everyone wanted more time, but I said no that’s the cutoff. The cases were merged and we delayed it and I still thought well maybe there is a defense of medical treatment. Why did I think that? Because it is my job to be fair and impartial but also because my two brothers and my father are very well-known respected doctors, real doctors with real treatments and research, dedicated to healing. I have not considered that in this case, but I have heard from your survivors now, that they trust doctors like I trust the doctors in my family and the doctors that I go to. But, I still thought, well, there is a defense of medical treatment and there are changes in the medical community every day for the betterment.
So up until the time you pled, I believed that maybe there is a defense here despite the felony information. I was ready for trial. Your counsel was ready for trial. The attorney general’s office was ready for trial. You, sir, decided to plea because there was no medical treatment. You did this for your pleasure and your control. This letter which comes two months after your plea tells me that you have not yet owned what you did. That you still think that somehow you are right that you are a doctor and you are entitled and you don’t have to listen and that you did treatment. I would not send my dogs to you, sir. There is no treatment here. You finally told the truth.
Inaction is inaction, silence is indifference. Justice requires action and a voice and that is what has happened here in this court. 168 buckets of water replaced on your so-called match that got out of control.
I, also like the attorney general, want to thank law enforcement for their investigation but I also want to be the voice on behalf of these survivors who asked law enforcement to continue their fine work and also include the federal government.
There has to be a massive investigation as to why there is inaction and why there was silence. Justice requires more than what I can do on this bench. I want to also applaud all of the counsels in the attorney general’s office. I want to also applaud defense counsel.
You all have done fine work. You made me proud of our legal system. We all work together for the betterment for our community and that’s law enforcement, prosecutors, defense counsel, investigators and there are countless of people. It is the only way our system works. We need this balance so all of you when I look at myself as lady justice, my arms are like this: they are balanced. Prosecution, defense are balanced.
It only starts to tip after there is a plea and after I take into consideration of everything that has happened. So I want everyone to understand, I have also done my homework, I always do. People vs. Waclawski. I’m sure I slaughtered the name but it is spelled w-a-c-l-a-w-s-k-i. And in it, I want you to clearly understand, it says, plainly the law does not limit victims impact statement to direct victims. It does not say and I have found nowhere that limits me from having you hear all of your victims.
As I said before, when counsel came to me and said we are not going to go to trial despite our court having already sent out 200 of the 800 juror requests and they told me their plea and would I consider it and move to trial. There was the agreement between us because I always, and they know it, they are familiar with me, let people speak. And I wanted all victims and we had a discussion about which victims. Of course, there was an objection to one of them but I let her come in anyway. That was part of the plea that you entered into to allow victim impact statement. Because after that discussion, I know your lawyers, as good as they are, sat down with you and said the judge is going to allow this. When it comes down to this, I know it also because this was signed by the attorney general, by the defendant and by defendant’s counsel on November 22, 2017.
Judge rips into Nassar
Aside from the letter you wrote, a couple of months after your plea which tells me that you still don’t get it, there is something I don’t understand and I want to make clear. Sir, you knew you had a problem, that’s clear to me. You knew you had a problem from a very young age before you were a doctor. You could have taken yourself away from temptation and you did not.
Worst yet, there is not a survivor who has not come in here and said how world renowned you were. I trust what they say. You could have gone anywhere in the world to be treated. You could have gone to any resort and any doctor or place where you can get treatment. In Europe they have all sorts of hidden places for things like this.
No one had to know and you could have found treatments, some help, taken some medicines. You would have done that if you had cancer. I know you would have. You are about self-preservation. But, you decided to not address what’s inside you that causes this control urge that causes you to be a sexual predator. So, your urges escalated and based on the numbers, that we all know go unreported. I cannot even guess how many vulnerable children and families you actually assaulted.
Your decision to assault was precise, calculated, manipulated, devious, despicable, I don’t have to add words because your survivors have said all of that, I don’t want to repeat it. You cannot give them back their innocence, their youth, you can’t give a father back his life. One of your victims, her life and she took it. You can’t return a daughter to a mother, a father to a daughter. You played on everyone’s vulnerability.
I’m not vulnerable to you or to criminals. I swore to hold the Constitution and law and I am well-trained. I know exactly what to do. This time, I am going to cure it.
And I want you to know, as much as it was my honor and privilege to hear the survivors, it is my honor and privilege to sentence you. Because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again. You have done nothing to control those urges and anywhere you walk, destruction will occur to those most vulnerable.
Now, I am honoring the agreement and I’m also honoring of what is requested of me and I want you to know that I am not good at math – I have a cheat sheet. I am only a lawyer. I know that you had a lot of education and physics and math but I have a cheat sheet. It is my privilege on counts one, two, five, eight, 10 and 18 and 24, to sentence you to 40 years. And when I look at my cheat sheet, 40 years just so you know and you can count it off your calendar is 480 months. The tail ends, because I need to send a message of parole board in the event somehow God is gracious and I know he is. If you survive the 60 years of federal court first and you start on my 40 years.
You have gone off the page here as to what I am doing. My page only goes to 100 years. Sir, I am giving you 175 years which is 2100 months. I have just signed your death warrant.
I need everyone to be quiet. I still have contempt powers, I told you I am not nice. I find that you don’t get it, that you are a danger. You remain a danger and I am a judge who believes in life and rehabilitation when rehabilitation is possible. I have many defendants come back here and show me great things they have done in their lives after probation and after parole. I don’t find that possible with you. So, you will receive jail credit and counts, 1, 2, 5, 8, 10, 18 of 369 days and count 24, you will have 370 days’ jail credit. If you are ever out which is doubtful. You would be required to register at the Michigan sex offenders registration act complying with all requirements of that act in addition to global position monitoring system, you would wear a GPS. You will pay restitution in the amount to be determined based on whatever amounts are submitted and your attorneys can ask me for a restitution hearing so I can determine what a reasonable amount is for the victims. I am leaving restitution opened as long as those victims that have issues that can be medically documented. You will comply with DNA testing and pay a $60 fee for that. I suspect that’s already done. You must submit to HIV testing and complete counseling associated with HIV and AIDS and you must weigh confidentiality of test results and medical information obtained from this test to be released to the court. You will pay $476 in state pocket and crime victim assessments in the amount of $130. If counsel wishes to address courts and fines, I don’t know his financial state. I am not imposing any court costs and fines. And here’s the reason, I don’t know what he has or what he will get in the future.
The victims deserve the money, the county will survive one way or another. I am also going to make recommendations of the Michigan Department of Corrections for mental health treatments. I understand he has some medical conditions and he should be taking medication for that. He should have individual and group counseling. Treatment for sexual predators, whatever they allow. I am also going to send a message. I am not sure but I believe I read an article, sir, that you were treating people in prison that don’t have a license, don’t commit any more crimes. I know you don’t have any more lives to give but you cannot be treating people. You are not a doctor. So, I am not sure how that’s happening. But I want to extend that message. You have 21 days to appeal, 10 days to request court-appointed counsel to acknowledge receipt of your appellate rights.
Let me just state to the media. Again, I am just doing my job. I know you all would like to talk to me. My secretary informed me that I have a growing stack of requests from print media, from television, from magazines, from around the world, literally.
This story is not about me. It never was about me. I hope I’ve opened some doors, because you see I am a little stupid because I thought everybody did what I did and if they didn’t, maybe they ought to, but I do this and I am happy to do it. If you don’t believe me, the keeper of my words is right by my side and lawyers who are hearing this and shaking their heads that yes, I have waited too long. Sometimes people are upset, I don’t care, I get paid the same.
So I ask the media who want to talk with me, I’m not going to be making any statements, I know that my office and I even don’t know, it is been a long couple of weeks that after this is over, it is just not my story. After the appellate period runs with victims by my side to tell their stories, I may answer some questions than what I said on the record. I don’t know what more I can possibly say.
I am not going to talk with any media person until after the appeal period, and even then if you talk to me about this case, I will have a survivor with me because it is their story.
So I wanted everybody to hear that from me. I respect all of the media outlets, you’ve done just a fabulous job here. There has not been any commotion or upset by this. I do believe in the First Amendment and I thank you all for being here because it is an important story for the survivors. As to today, I know there are a lot of survivors and family members and husbands and friends, a lot of people in the courtroom, you have voices. I am going to leave the courtroom, the defendant will leave the courtroom. The attorneys may stay. Victims, family members, survivors – you may stay in the courtroom and talk with the media, you can have your own press conference right here. Spur of the moment sometimes works out the best, doesn’t it?
Again, I won’t make a statement until after the appeal period. And again, if there’s any survivor then who at that point, if somebody wants to talk to me, I am sure you will be moved onto another story but if you’re not, please give your names to the victims’ advocate so that I can contact you. Because please, media, do not contact me on this story without a survivor. It is their story. I thank everybody in this case.
Sir, I hope somewhere you have heard everybody’s words and it really does resonate with you.